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Ferndale

July 24, 2013

Ferndale earns Main Street Accreditation for eighth straight year

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

FERNDALE — Construction on West Nine Mile Road this summer has slowed traffic, but the end results will provide a more seamless transition from Woodward Avenue and include more businesses in the downtown section of Ferndale.

The project is one of the most recent by the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority to help improve the downtown area of the city. The National Main Street Center has recognized the DDA’s efforts and awarded Ferndale National Main Street Accreditation for 2013.

Ferndale was one of several cities recognized by Main Street Oakland County in early July as a community to receive a perfect 10 out of 10 on the national evaluations. Ferndale joins Clawson, Farmington, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Oxford, Ortonville, Pontiac and Rochester as recipients.

“You need someone, an organization, focused on economic development in the downtown and (that) has a centralized focus on maintaining and growing it in a lot of different ways,” Ferndale DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius said. “Many years ago, downtown areas were dinosaurs; they were dying. (The DDA’s) role is to make sure people are investing and staying in downtown and making it vibrant and walkable and usable for a resident or a visitor to the area.”

Ferndale has had an accredited main street since 2006 and earned the top honor of Great American Main Street in 2010, an award that went to Rochester for 2012. The Main Street accreditation is more for a downtown area, Sheppard-Decius said, and for Ferndale that is mainly Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, as well as a few of the adjacent streets.

Cities gain Main Street accreditation for meeting several criteria, the first of which is being part of a Main Street network, which Ferndale is with Main Street Oakland County. Outside of basic criteria like reporting statistics and having a mission statement, the DDA also had to have a historic preservation ethic and a comprehensive work plan.

“We had to have a process for our work plan with various elements of projects that we put together to manage the downtown and how they all came together and who does them,” Sheppard-Decius said. “We also had to preserve and enrich our historic assets, and not just buildings. We had to look at how our new character in buildings would blend with the old and how we preserve our cultural history, as well.”

Chris Hughes, the Ferndale DDA communications and marketing manager, said some of the DDA’s goals overlap from year to year, while some are new each year to bring something unique to the downtown area.

“Some goals and objectives repeat themselves year to year and never go away because they are long-term goals, while others we see get done and may stay on as a continuing goal,” Hughes said. “The bottom line for the Downtown Development Authority and the Main Street accreditation is for economic development. We have a lot of volunteers that help us get all these goals done and we log a lot of volunteer hours.”

Ultimately, the accreditation is a testament to all the hard work the volunteers do for Ferndale and the DDA, Sheppard-Decius said. While she is a full-time director, as per the National Main Street Center’s guidelines, a lot of the work done for the DDA is by volunteers.

“The accreditation doesn’t bring you money, it doesn’t give you glorious plaques, they just give you a certificate,” Sheppard-Decius said. “It is about the work we have done, and what us and the volunteers have put into the downtown area, and what makes everything work well. Really, the important part is knowing we are doing the things that are right and those things work nationally for managing a downtown.”

Sheppard-Decius said Ferndale applied to be part of Main Street Oakland County in 2000 but were denied, as the organization felt Ferndale was not quite ready. But, as a member, the DDA executive director said Ferndale has been able to drastically improve the downtown area in the past 12 years since joining Main Street Oakland County in 2001.

“I felt we weren’t ready, as well, in 2000, so we as a board accepted the organization’s management tool as our management tool and that has been a big reason why we are so successful,” Sheppard-Decius said. “You want an area where residents really call home and each person has an ownership with it. We want people to connect to it and feel like they have made a difference.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.